Growing up in the Maritimes, fishing is a huge part of our culture. I was raised on fresh mussels and stream caught trout, Atlantic salmon, lobster, fried clams and butter sautéed scallops. That being said, I strongly believe in conservation and I believe the meat-eating culture is destroying our environment. We rely so heavily on the sea for oxygen, climate control, and it’s creatures are part of the greater food chain. In short, fishing hurts our oceans (therefore our ecosystem), it tips the scales of natural balance of the creatures who eat the things we eat, as well as kills other species by proxy of fishing that can’t be sold as food and are therefore wasted. It increases pollution directly through fishing, transporting the fish, as well as indirectly, through oil spills and even garbage/waste of the crew. If you would like to learn more about the environmental impact of fishing please visit these links:
- Google Scholar results for ‘environmental impact of fishing’ it includes many published papers/journals on the effects of bottom trawling, marine life, aquaculture etc.
- Environmental Impact of Fishing presented by Wikipedia
- Top 10 Way Man is Destroying our Environment presented by Discovery.com
For the reasons above and a few others, I choose not to eat fish of any kind including any by-products. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. Frankly, I used to love the taste of fish and shellfish and there are not a lot of ‘fishy’ alternatives when you are a vegan/vegetarian.
When I get a craving for tuna, I can easily reproduce it by mashing up some chickpeas with other goodies and be completely satisfied with a healthy lunch full of protein and fibre. But, when I get a craving for pan-fried or battered fish, I hit a road block. The texture of fish is likely going to be the thing you can’t really reproduce, but the flavour and nostalgia from biting into your first fish stick can, and should totally be, re-created.
I found a recipe on Vegan Dad’s website for Tofu Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce that seemed pretty convincing. I got myself all geared up with ingredients but forgot one main one, nori. Nori, for those of you who may not know is toasted seaweed formed into rectangular sheets. It has a mild seaweed taste, kind of salty, kind of toasty and very thin and dry. They most often use nori when making sushi but can also be used to give a ‘fishy’ taste to whatever you prepare it with. The Vegan Dad uses nori to make a marinade for the tofu, but as I forgot to pick up some, I used Shichimi Togarashi spice by President’s Choice which contains ‘hot red chili flakes, black and white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, orange zest, wasabi and nori seaweed’.
If you cannot obtain this spice blend I would follow the instructions on Vegan Dad’s recipe for the marinade adding Old Bay seasoning and double the Old Bay seasoning for the breading in my recipe. These faux-fish sticks are slightly spicy, really crunchy, amazingly satisfying and make a perfect complement to my dill tartar sauce I’ll be posting next. My recipe makes about 12 – 15 faux-fish sticks.
Baked Faux-fish Sticks
adapted from Vegan Dad’s recipe
- 1 package low-fat extra firm tofu, rinsed, cut into sticks and patted dry
- 1 tbs shichimi togarashi spice
- 1 tbs coarse sea salt
- 1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
- juice from half of one lemon (about 2 tbs)
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of white flour
- 1/4 cup of coarse ground cornmeal
- 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp shichimi togarashi spice
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
3 tbs of olive oil for baking
Rinse tofu and cut into sticks. With the tofu laying flat, slide the knife through the middle so you have split the width in half. From the top cut into sticks; the wide of the tofu is the length of the faux-fish stick. Pat all side dry with paper towel or a clean dish towel.
In a shallow pan, mix water, lemon juice,sea salt and spice blend or nori. It will only be enough marinade to cover one side of the tofu, toss well and store int he fridge for 2-3 hours, turning every 30-45 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a shallow pan mix the breading and set aside.
Remove the tofu from the fridge, turn each cube in marinade before dreading in the dry breading, return each stick to the marinade, and then to the breading once more before placing on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat until all the tofu sticks are coated.
Drizzle tofu with half of the olive oil and bake for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn each stick, drizzle with oil again and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. The coating should be crispy and golden brown on all sides.
Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before digging in as they will be very hot. Serve with tartar sauce and a light beer. Enjoy!